My First Keynote#

Yesterday evening I gave a keynote at the New England Louis Stoke Alliance for Minority Participation (NELSAMP) Poster Symposium hosted at Northeastern.  The event is in conjunction with tomorrow’s GEM Getting Ready for Advanced Degrees (GRAD) Laboratory, tomorrow.  I was asked to speak at the event a couple months ago, I agreed.  For a while I didn’t think much about it then I started planning the talk.   I’ve prepared plenty of presentations before without much of a problem.  However, I’ve always struggled with giving speeches, so I wanted to go a more presentation-like style for talk.  Something about preparing things word for word, I never manage to get through delivering it smoothly.

So I opened a document and started making notes of the points I wanted to make.   I started listing points on slides.  But this was a very different type of talk than I’m used to giving.  I wasn’t simply giving a talk on a predetermined topic, or explaining results. I had to figure out how to be motivational to a group of students. Thinking through what I wanted to say about grad school was a lot harder than I expected.

Eventually, I decided to talk about how I felt when I started grad school. How I didnt really know what it was that I had signed up for, eveb though I knew exactly why I wanted to be there. I had had plenty of exposure to the advantages of a PhD, but no one had ever explained what it was.

I borrowed Professor Matt Might’s illustrated guide to a Phd and added in some of the early struggles I had, how I got through them and where I am now. I plan to post a cleaned up version of the talk here, because as I finally delivered it, it became more clear.

At the end, one of my mentees here at northeastern came to me and told me he might want a PhD now. After, several other students came and said they liked the talk. This morning, Dr. Huggans from GEM, said, “Great job, we’ll have to get you more involved… once you finish.” Overall, I guess it went pretty well, especially since I felt so lost trying to prepare.

Even the tech went smoothly, I used an app on my phone as a presentation remote over bluetooth so that I could walk around and not be trapped behind the podium.

I’m glad I accepted before I had a chance to think enough to realize I had no idea what to say.